Honfleur & Deauville

Honfleur, France | Design Mom

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

This post is about Honfleur and Deauville. Two neighboring towns here in Normandy that we never tire of visiting. We’ve been to both many times, but the photos in this post are from a visit last May. Spring in Normandy is very wet, and often cold, so when the sun comes out, you can bet we take advantage of it.

Honfleur, France | Design Mom

These first images show Honfleur. It’s a small fishing port that is big on charm. And the light here is so remarkable that it won’t surprise you to hear this little town is considered the birthplace of impressionism. In fact, it’s not unusual at all to see painters with easels set up near the water, capturing the boats and flags and sails on their canvases.

Honfleur, France | Design MomHonfleur and Deauville14

We’ve been told there are particular things to do in Honfleur — churches to visit and towers to climb — but we’ve never done any of them. Instead, we like to walk through the narrow side streets, window shopping, and stopping for ice cream. We might ride the port-side carousel or watch the boats come in. And then we’ll eat a late lunch or early dinner at one of the touristy restaurants that line the wharf — there are a dozen to pick from.

Honfleur, France | Design MomHonfleur, France | Design MomHonfleur, France | Design MomHonfleur, France | Design Mom

Honfleur reminds me a lot of Brussels, Belgium — when you wander around the cobblestone streets, you’re bound to hear a half a dozen languages before you reach the end of the block.

You could easily spend a day here, or even a romantic overnight, but we usually see Honfleur in a 4 or 5 hour block — just enough time to soak up the atmosphere and eat something delicious before we drive home (it’s about an hour and a half away from our little town).

Deauville, France | Design Mom

Next up, Deauville, a chic beach town where rich Parisians keep a summer home. The town center is stunning and full of high-end shops like Hermes. But we go for the beach, boardwalk and the iconic umbrellas.

Deauville, France | Design MomDeauville, France | Design Mom

On this particular day, we went to Deauville in the morning and spent the afternoon at Honfleur. But if it’s really sunny, we’ll never the leave the beach — only leaving the sand to pick up soft serve and sandwiches —and save Honfleur for another day.

Deauville, France | Design MomDeauville, France | Design Mom

It’s hard for me to imagine ever tiring of snapping photos of those umbrellas. : )

Deauville, France | Design Mom

Honfleur and Deauville are two of our very favorite spots to visit in Normandy, but alas, we rarely get to share them with visitors. When friends and family come to France, they (understandably) build their visit around Paris, and come to our house for a couple of nights. Once they arrive here, the Normandy Tourist Site Priorities for our visitors are usually: 1) A day visiting the D-Day Sites, and 2) a day visiting Mont St. Michel. Both amazing and unforgettable!

But, if our guests have more time than that, we like to offer 3) a day all about William the Conquerer with visits to Falaise, Bayeaux and Caen, 4) a day in Rouen — a well preserved half-timber city with some drama (Joan of Arc was burned at the stake there), and 5) a visit to Honfleur and Deauville. Not necessarily in that order.

I totally get it. If you only have a week or two in France, spending a day at the beach is probably not the way to go. That said, these two little towns really are some of our very favorites. There’s just so much good stuff to see here!

Tell me, Friends. If you were headed to Normandy, what would you want to visit?

35 thoughts on “Honfleur & Deauville”

  1. those images of honfleur are calling my name – what a sweet-looking town! i’m not a beach person but i love being by the water, so afternoon wandering around there sounds very appealing…

  2. We spent 1 night in Bayeux a few years ago and had a lovely dinner at Le Pommier. I highly recommend it! We were there on a quick trip during our 2 week apartment swap in Paris. We went to Normandy for the D-Day tour but definitely fell in love with the area and wished we would have spent more time traveling around in Normandy as well as heading over to Brittany. Thank you also for highlighting some of the Loire region- another area we considered seeing but never got to. We chose day trips to Reims, Strasbourg and Colmar which definitely didn’t disappoint. I love that there is so much variation within the northern region of France but consistent beauty. I’m enjoying living vicariously through your travels!!

  3. I studied abroad in Caen, and visited Honfleur once. Such a pretty town! I like Caen, and William the Conquerer’s castle, but for an entire semester, it lost its charm for me. That’s when I started taking weekend trips up to Paris. I’ve been to Rouen, too, and it was really nice.

    I’m glad to hear that you and your family are taking in as much as possible, enjoying your surroundings, as well as hopping flights across borders. I love these Travelogues!

    1. I hear you, Carly. For us, Caen is usually a practical destination for specific shopping or a visit to the orthodontist.

      When we do a William the Conquerer day, we like to start in Falaise at the castle where he was born — it’s just 15 minutes from our home. Then we head to Bayeaux where we can visit the Tapestry and the museum there and learn about his story. Then we end in Caen for dinner his castle there.

      It makes a great day!

  4. Whoops, my comment posted by itself. I was GOING to say, This is so great! We are headed to Normandy for two weeks at the end of May, and I haven’t been since I was 16 so I can’t remember much beyond Mont St. Michel and the D-Day beaches, ha! I stayed with a family in St. Lo for a while but we were mostly just hanging out around home. This time we are renting a house for a couple weeks–me, my husband, our 2.5 yr old and the baby, plus my brother and Mother in Law. My brother and I are fluent in French, the house looks great, but we haven’t planned a thing!

    Thanks for the tips; I was just about to scan through your posts from the last year+ and get some ideas.

    1. How fun, Kate! Your two weeks in Normandy will be wonderful, I’m sure — especially with your French skills. We’ve found the the further you are from Paris, the less likely you are to find someone who speaks English. In our little town, it’s pretty much French only. : )

      If it helps, here’s a link to all the posts I’ve written about our travel within France:

      1. Thank you!! I also just noted down all GOOP’s drugstore picks, which I always forget to look for, and checked out your experiences w them, too! I’m excited to have a longer trip and stay put a bit–usually we do a few days in Paris and a week or so somewhere else, but always moving around a lot.

  5. I would love to visit Honfleur & Deauville. There is something so special about places like this, local spots that is, when traveling to a new place. It makes me feel more a part of it all, you know? Absolutely beautiful!

    1. I know what you mean, Lisa. There’s no doubt these spots are tourist spots — but compared to a place like Mont St. Michel they are relatively unheard of. They feel more like an unusual discovery!

  6. I have been reading your blog for a little while now, and your post on Normandy are, always, very special for me.
    I was born and grow-up in Caen, and now live in Los Angeles with my American husband and 4yo son.
    Ah Deauville! My sister and I spend long summer days there… and Honfleur, always so pretty!
    Thank you for the flashback!

    1. I’m so glad you like my posts about Normandy, Mathilde! So kind of you to say so. We think we’re so lucky to live here. Normandy is definitely our favorite region in France!

  7. We’ll be driving down your way in a couple of days on our way back from visiting my family in Jersey (you should try to get across to Jersey if you have the time, lots of gorgeous beaches there too). We are planning on taking the kids to see Mont Saint Michel or maybe Honfleur. All my childhood vacations were spent in Normandy or Brittany, lots of happy memories of all those places you mention.

    1. Jersey is definitely on our list! Our daughter, Olive, was able to visit Jersey on a school field trip. It’s fun to know there a little spot of England so nearby.

  8. We were in Brittany and Normandy last fall and loved it. I would add to the list Bayeaux, particularly the museum with the Bayeaux tapestry. I think kids would love it- it is like the first comic book except it tells its story in needlework. The museum is well set up and a pleasure to visit. We also enjoyed the Saturday market at Bayeaux. We loved Pont Aven in Brittany- Guaguin’s town which was filled with flowers and offers a great boat ride to the sea. My last suggestion is the Pegasus Bridge memorial and museum with a reconstructed WW II glider. – and of course the Memorial in Caen- an amazing museum about WW II with some lovely gardens, particularly the Canadian memorial.

    1. For sure. Bayeaux is definitely a favorite spot! We like taking guest to see the tapestry, then following that with a visit to the massive cathedral, then walking along the river and stopping for a treat.

      A few weeks ago, they opened a new museum in Bayeaux with art, an incredible lace making exhibit, plus local pottery and the oldest bell in France. I went with my mother and we loved it!

  9. I will be sad when you leave France as I love these travel posts. Especially the ones in France as I have spent two study abroads plus two vacation times there. I loved Normandy, and your discussion about Honfleur was a great reminisce for me! I loved the houses along the water there – some of them were so narrow. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them. I haven’t been to Deauville, but do also love Bayeux, Rouen, D Day beaches. Have you been to Etretat? I loved that town – absolutely gorgeous! Your post the other day about the Loire Valley – I studied aboard in Angers, so have done Chenonceau among other castles. Thanks for the virtual re-visit!

    Another Paris excursion that I loved was Giverny. Have you taken the family there? Would love a post about that :)

  10. Thanks for the post! We’re looking forward to bringing our Little Miss to Honfleur for the first time this summer. It’s charming and perfect for family outings. That said, I’ve never been to any of the war monuments in Normandy, so I would love to do that.

    xoxo PARIS BEE kids blog

  11. We spent a week just outside of Honfleur when our kids were still school age. We could walk to town and had the most fun ever. One day we’d venture out to see the local sites, the next day we’d hang out in the 12th century farm house we rented, reading books and eating. Honfleur is also apple brand country and the kids would pick up the fallen (tiny) applesin the back field and hurl them at each other for the evenings entertainment. Not quite as hard as rocks, but just enough danger to make it exciting! Not exactly front page of Good Parenting Magazine, but that was their favorite part.

  12. We are headed there this week and will be visiting Dinan. While it isn’t in Normandy, it is a short drive from where we stay in Normandy. Though this is our 3rd trip back, we haven’t seen Dinan yet, so we are really excited! I think on our way back, having been to Honfleur before, we’re going to give Giverny a try! Gabrielle, have you been?

    1. Erin, we went to Giverny a few years ago–I’d dreamed of going ever since reading “Linnea in Monet’s Garden” when I was about 7. The town itself is lovely, though we were a little bummed by the experience at Monet’s house and garden. It’s so busy that you have to walk through in a line w all the other visitors; most side paths are blocked off and you can’t wander. That said, it’s gorgeous. But the whole town is packed with gorgeous gardens! It’s a really stunning spot. We stayed here:
      And liked it a lot. They organized dinner outside for a bunch of the guests one night; truly magical.

  13. So glad to see this! We are traveling to Normandy for D-Day 2014 (my birthday!) and as everything in the Bayeux area is already booked, I had to find a room in Honfleur. I’m very excited now after seeing this post.

  14. Help! On our way down to Concarneau, where our daughter lives, wanting to stop off for a few days in either Deauville or Honfleur – but which (we’ll visit the other one for the day). My husband wants Honfleur but there don’t seem to be many hotels that are well reviewed. We want to be able to enjoy e ening meals with plenty of wine – so nowhere outside of either town – we need o be able to walk back!

  15. Stumbled accidentally and happily upon this blog, which has helped solidify my decision to stay an extra 5 days in this region. I’ve booked a b&b in Deauville, two adult couples, and will explore all tips and suggestions mentioned above.

  16. My family will be traveling in December. We are traveling from UK to Bayeux area. We will have 4 nights and 3 days. Family consists of
    My husband and I. I grown son. Our grown daughter, spouse and 3 children ages 6,4,and 1. Planning is beginning to be overwhelming. We have travelled with my daughters family many times. We have driven twice to Germany from Mildenhall Uk. Train from Mildenhall to Paris. Have flown from Stansted UK to Portugal. Having said that looking for the most efficient, economical and hassle free way to get to Bayeux whether by train, plane, automobile, or ferry. What recommendations do you have? Of note, when we travelled to Paris my mother 84 was traveling with us and with all the luggage, strollers, children etc. we nearly lost my mother getting on the train. I am a little concerned about the same thing happening with such young children with people rushing and pushing each other to get on the train. Any advice is greatly appreciated. If you could possibly email me directly that would be helpful.
    Thanks, Vicki

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top